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Come on in! A restored Tennessee Williams Welcome Center rolls out the welcome mat

 

 

Debbie Jenkins, travel counselor, welcomes visitors to the newly-restored and furnished Tennessee Williams Welcome Center. The doors of the 1875 landmark home re-opened with a reception Sept. 9. With period furnishings, it now exudes a home-like atmosphere, much like the former rectory probably did when a young Williams himself lived out the first three years of his childhood there, when his grandfather — the Rev. Walter Dakin — was rector at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.

Debbie Jenkins, travel counselor, welcomes visitors to the newly-restored and furnished Tennessee Williams Welcome Center. The doors of the 1875 landmark home re-opened with a reception Sept. 9. With period furnishings, it now exudes a home-like atmosphere, much like the former rectory probably did when a young Williams himself lived out the first three years of his childhood there, when his grandfather — the Rev. Walter Dakin — was rector at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.
Photo by: Kelly Tippett

 

Entering the parlor, visitors are greeted by elegant vases and an 1880s mirror on permanent loan from Dixie Butler. In this room, a framed laurel wreath, which rested with Williams’ casket during viewing in 1983, is preserved in a shadowbox made by Raymond Griggs of Columbus. An engraved cross that once belonged to Rev. Walter Dakin was donated Sept. 9 by the Williams family and will soon be on display. Floral arrangements in the home were done by Dr. Jim DelPrince of Mississippi State University; some flowers came from the gardens of Grayce and Dewitt Hicks.

Entering the parlor, visitors are greeted by elegant vases and an 1880s mirror on permanent loan from Dixie Butler. In this room, a framed laurel wreath, which rested with Williams’ casket during viewing in 1983, is preserved in a shadowbox made by Raymond Griggs of Columbus. An engraved cross that once belonged to Rev. Walter Dakin was donated Sept. 9 by the Williams family and will soon be on display. Floral arrangements in the home were done by Dr. Jim DelPrince of Mississippi State University; some flowers came from the gardens of Grayce and Dewitt Hicks.
Photo by: Kelly Tippett

 

At a circa 1880 Mason & Hamlin cabinet organ in the parlor, James Allen of Columbus plays traditional hymns. Sunlight streams through original glass panes in the room set aside as a gift shop. The organ was donated by Dr. Matt Wesson of Tupelo and “still plays beautifully,” Carpenter said.

At a circa 1880 Mason & Hamlin cabinet organ in the parlor, James Allen of Columbus plays traditional hymns. Sunlight streams through original glass panes in the room set aside as a gift shop. The organ was donated by Dr. Matt Wesson of Tupelo and “still plays beautifully,” Carpenter said.
Photo by: Kelly Tippett

 

A graceful secretary and needlepoint chair look as though the lady of the house may return any moment. Carpenter acquired the secretary and period lamp for the home. The Victorian sofa, a gift from Dr. Wesson, is covered in fabric donated by Dixie Butler. Fred McCaleb and Sherry Guyton also donated furnishings in the parlor.

A graceful secretary and needlepoint chair look as though the lady of the house may return any moment. Carpenter acquired the secretary and period lamp for the home. The Victorian sofa, a gift from Dr. Wesson, is covered in fabric donated by Dixie Butler. Fred McCaleb and Sherry Guyton also donated furnishings in the parlor.
Photo by: Kelly Tippett

 

Docent Amy King is pictured in the dining room, by an Eastlake style table donated by Emilie and Jack White of Columbus. Other furnishings in the dining room were donated by Jeanette Beard Interiors and Antiques of Columbus and Jamie and Jerry Inman of Starkville.

Docent Amy King is pictured in the dining room, by an Eastlake style table donated by Emilie and Jack White of Columbus. Other furnishings in the dining room were donated by Jeanette Beard Interiors and Antiques of Columbus and Jamie and Jerry Inman of Starkville.
Photo by: Kelly Tippett

 

Docent Joyce Bray stands by an antique Eastlake style bed in the second-story room where Edwina Dakin Williams went into labor March 26, 1911. Thomas Lanier Williams was born several blocks east, in a facility thought to have occupied what is now the site of Trustmark Bank. The turn-of-the-century Victorian trunk at the foot of the bed is on permanent loan from Elizabeth Simpson.

Docent Joyce Bray stands by an antique Eastlake style bed in the second-story room where Edwina Dakin Williams went into labor March 26, 1911. Thomas Lanier Williams was born several blocks east, in a facility thought to have occupied what is now the site of Trustmark Bank. The turn-of-the-century Victorian trunk at the foot of the bed is on permanent loan from Elizabeth Simpson.
Photo by: Kelly Tippett

 

Docents Joyce Bray and Amy King are pictured in the library on the second floor, an area once used for offices and not on public tour. The barley twist chair features a decorative form of turning wood that became very fashionable in the late Victorian and Edwardian periods. The circa 1905 library table was acquired for the room by Carpenter. Mounted on the library walls are 16 panels of a photographic display chronicling highlights in the life of Tennessee Williams, whose childhood bedroom was just across the hall. The original floors were restored by Conn Construction Co. Inc., revealing heart pine that, when freed from a century of waxes and finishes, glows after a gentle application of distilled water and vinegar. The window panes are original to the house.

Docents Joyce Bray and Amy King are pictured in the library on the second floor, an area once used for offices and not on public tour. The barley twist chair features a decorative form of turning wood that became very fashionable in the late Victorian and Edwardian periods. The circa 1905 library table was acquired for the room by Carpenter. Mounted on the library walls are 16 panels of a photographic display chronicling highlights in the life of Tennessee Williams, whose childhood bedroom was just across the hall. The original floors were restored by Conn Construction Co. Inc., revealing heart pine that, when freed from a century of waxes and finishes, glows after a gentle application of distilled water and vinegar. The window panes are original to the house.
Photo by: Kelly Tippett

 

Columbus Cultural Heritage Foundation Manager Nancy Carpenter shows a bronzed ceramic bust of Tennessee Williams made and donated by Angie Jones of Columbus.

Columbus Cultural Heritage Foundation Manager Nancy Carpenter shows a bronzed ceramic bust of Tennessee Williams made and donated by Angie Jones of Columbus.
Photo by: Kelly Tippett

 

 

Jan Swoope

 

Like any noble, but aging, grand lady, the 135-year-old Tennessee Williams Welcome Center at 300 Main St. in Columbus had earned a bit of doting attention. While closed to the public from May until earlier this month, that is exactly what it got -- inside and out.  

 

A talented ensemble cast worked with the Columbus Cultural Heritage Foundation and Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau to transform the landmark, including Pryor and Morrow Architects PA, and general contractor Conn Construction Co. Inc., both of Columbus. Nancy Carpenter, manager of the Heritage Foundation, praised their expertise. 

 

For the decor inside, Carpenter consulted with Dr. Gail Caskey Winkler, author of numerous books on historic interiors. For the exterior, the team consulted with Dr. Roger W. Moss Jr. of Philadelphia, Pa., an internationally-known expert in the field of preservation and historic paints and colors.  

 

Generous donors contributed furnishings typical of a period from about 1875 to 1913. Carpenter frugally sought out additional pieces from other Mississippi sources. Soon, docents in period attire will be on hand from 10 a.m. until noon and from 2-4 p.m. to give tours.  

 

The Welcome Center is open Monday through Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from noon until 5 p.m.  

 

Stop in for a visit, won''t you?

 

Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.

 

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